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Letters

Single Sex Schools

I was disappointed with the last line of the article: “Sex Segregated Schools—How Good Are They for Girls?” [Spring 1997] “The first step will be understanding that baking challah has no place in a discussion of the education of girls.” With the current questions in our society regarding latch-key kids, and my own research into the decay of domestic religion, I found the last sentence to be indicative of “old school” feminism. Melissa Klapper, the educator being quoted, certainly does not say, in the previous sentence, what the author does in the last. And I am not advocating all our women return to the domestic realm full-time; I am an advocate of choice.

We need to teach our children some of everything so that they can make a valid choice for their lives, and so that they can appreciate what others do choose. Perhaps, the last sentence should read: “The first step will be understanding that baking challah has a place in a discussion of the education for both boys and girls. After all, does it matter who bakes the challah so long as someone makes it and the family sits down to enjoy it together?” We need to see that running the home is an important act, that need not be the domain of women.

by Mara W. Cohen loannides Springfield, MO

As a Jewish educator and writer with an active interest in gender issues, I found Sarah Blustain’s article on sex-segregated schools fascinating reading. In my view, based on 17 years in the field of Jewish education, gender-separated schools are unnatural and undesirable. Such schools have done away with shared inquiry in the truest sense by limiting discussion and debate to only one gender. I appreciated Blustain’s willingness to take a stand on sex-segregated schools, rather than simply present both sides of the issue.

And please-more articles by Muslim feminists! [“My Muslim Ancestor Hagar”] We need to dispel the erroneous notion that there are no progressives among Muslims.

by Carmela Ingwer New York, NY

Jerusalem’s Awesome Women

Your otherwise interesting article on famous women who live(d) in Jerusalem [Spring 1997] contained a serious error in the segment about Henrietta Szold.

Szold was not, as your writers stated, the founder of Youth Aliyah, That distinction belongs to Recha Freier, a social worker and the wife of a rabbi, both of Berlin.

Let me quote the Zionist Encyclopedia’s listing about Freier and Youth Aliyah (Vol. l,p. 361):
“Social Worker and originator of the idea of Youth Aliya…. Disturbed by the anti-Jewish discrimination in employment of the depression period, [she] conceived the idea of bringing young people and children in large groups to Palestine and arranging for their settlement in kibbutzim. Georg Landauer, a member of the Zionist Executive, suggested that she get in touch with Henrietta Szold, then director of the Department of Social Welfare of the Vaad L’Umi (National Council) in Jerusalem. Since Miss Szold’s first reaction was negative, Mrs. Freier herself began to raise funds for her project and, on January 30, 1933, the day Hitler took office, established the Society for Youth Aliya in Berlin. In May 1933, she went to Palestine and persuaded Miss Szold to take charge of Youth Aliya.
“Returning to Germany in July, Mrs. Freier, aided by Judische Jugendhilfe (Jewish Youth Aid), organized prospective Youth Aliya wards into groups, taught them Hebrew, and prepared them and their parents for the separation that lay ahead. She traveled to England and the Balkans to speed the departure of Jewish youths from Naziheld lands. In 1941 she herself settled in Palestine, where she continued her education and social work for poor children. . . . She published Let the Children Come: The Early History of Youth Aliya (1961).”
by Cordelia Cooper New York, NY
Nechama Leibowitz (featured in “In Praise of Famous Women: A Walking or Armchair Tour of Jerusalem” Spring 1997) died in Jerusalem in April at the age of 92. Professor Leibowitz was one of the greatest biblical scholars in this century. She was a consummate juggler, tossing the text of the Hebrew Bible up in the air, and throwing against it all the great commentators from the past 2,000 years of history and beyond. She parsed, contrasted, explained, elucidated, drew sharp distinctions and formulated new hypotheses.
She lived in a society which rewarded women for being private, inside the house and pious, and she was pious and public and sharp. Her teachings crossed religious boundaries. Everyone was her student and all invited her to give lectures, and pored over her mimeographed sheets of wisdom. She was the mother of several generations of Bible scholars. Perhaps once in a century does someone bestow such richness upon society. May her name be blessed.
by Susan Isserman Manhattan, NY
Resisting “Black or Jewish”
I thoroughly enjoyed reading “‘Are You Black or Are You Jewish?’ Resisting the Identity Challenge” (Fall 1996). It was a pleasure to read the stories of others like myself who proudly claim both Black and Jewish ancestry. “Resisting the Identity Challenge” is an apt way of phrasing the stance which many of us have adopted in our lives and from which we are forced to act on a regular basis.
I would like to clarify one point with respect to my own experience, however, I would not say that I have “no desire to return to [my] roots on Chicago’s South Side” (p.27). My Black roots are an integral part of my self-identification as a person of mixed descent. It would be accurate, though, to say that I have no desire to return to live in the neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side in which my roots lie—the result of the unwelcome treatment I received in that neighborhood as I was growing up.
I’m sure I speak for others who were represented in and/or read that article when I express my hope for a time when no one is unwelcome in any place.
by Jan Weisman Seattle, WA
Food from Memory’s Kitchen This year we have been given a gift regarding a new way to commemorate the Shoah. Even as we continue to refine the ways of remembering the deaths of our six million loved ones, so we must turn to new ways of celebrating their lives. With the publication of In Memory’s Kitchen, (reviewed in Winter 1996) we have been given a treasure handed down from woman to woman, and in the case of this manuscript, from mother to daughter. I would like to imagine that this year, we each take a recipe carefully recalled and recorded by the women in The resienstadt, and make it, and serve it at our family’s meals, or at our synagogue programs. If the women could preserve recipes, tokens of who they were, how they nourished their families, where their sacred space could be found. symbols—no, banners—of defiance and life in the face of hatred and hell, then perhaps this is one of the ways we can move from memories of death to memories of life.
by Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin via e-mail
Each year I hold an “Open Sukkah” reception at home for my congregants and friends. I bake like crazy— it’s therapeutic after all those sermons. This year there was a recipe from In Memory’s Kitchen revised and published in the Chicago Tribune, for a “gesund heitkuchen”— a good health cake” presumably brought to women after childbirth. I decide to make it, with real butter, and too many eggs and all. (What would we call “good health” today?) I also baked my mother’s family recipe for plum kuchen, which we always have for Rosh Hashanah. And as I baked them, I had the most wonderful feeling that somehow these women who had handed down these recipes were there in the kitchen with me.
Both my mother and my husband’s mother lost family members in Theresienstadt. Some of them I know something about, but most not. This book, and its simple defiant statement of hope, really blew me away. It made me realize even more what a labor of love my cooking is—a gift for my family and friends—and that I stand in an honorable tradition of Jewish women who transmitted so much with the food they created. It made me think more about how so many of my peers don’t cook anymore—they’re too busy or it’s not a priority and I understand that, but I know that this is something I love to do. Perhaps it’s because I get to see (and eat!) the result of my work immediately, whereas in the rabbinate, I usually have to be content with long-term gratification. Now, each year as I bake plum kuchen in the fall, or make my Pesach nut tortes and matzah balls from recipes from my German fore mothers, I feel their spirits in the kitchen with me.
by Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus via e-mail
The Nanny
Contrary to Nora Lee Mandel’s statement that Fran Drescher’s character is “a shin… clothes-horse hunting rich non-Jewish men” (“Media Watch: What the World Sees in the ‘The Nanny,'” Winter 1996), the Nanny has more than once declared her requirement that her future husband be Jewish. (“If he were Jewish, I’d many him,” she said of one appealing prospect.) Even her fantasized wedding to employer Maxwell Sheffield was under a chuppah, with a rabbi officiating. Her expressed desire to marry within her faith is a minority view among TV’s current Jewish characters.

by Judith and Jonathan Pearl Floral Park, NY